Can Experimentation Help Print Compete with Digital?

In Discussion by Edward Nawotka

In the face of digital competition, print publishers need to think beyond the mere bound book.

By Edward Nawotka

books bookstore sign

In the current era, we often discuss how publishers are experimenting with new formats in digital publishing, be it in the form of apps, transmedia or multi-platform publishing. But you here less and less about experimentation in print. McSweeney’s is perhaps the best known for innovative packaging of their literary magazines — and has inspired imitators. But few other publishers have gone out on a limb with interesting experiments to lure readers. Certainly there are the occasional boxed sets with a few extras, books packaged with CDs, and the infrequent double-sided novel, but not much else.

This seems like a lost opportunity, especially when one considers the excitement that could be generated by a little out-of-the box thinking. The additional unit cost is certainly a factor holding publishers back, but considering the investment so many publishers already have in print — and the erosion of sales due to digital — do they really have a choice but to try something new? Booksellers would certainly welcome having something a little different and new to sell that didn’t require a plug or wasn’t a toy, game, t-shirt or coffee mug. So why not?

Let us know what you think in the comments.

About the Author

Edward Nawotka

A widely published critic and essayist, Edward Nawotka serves as a speaker, educator and consultant for institutions and businesses involved in the global publishing and content industries. He was also editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives since the launch of the publication in 2009 until January 2016.